What the Equality Act Means for Women

by Nick Totin

How current protections don’t go far enough to ensure women’s rights.

The Equality Act is an important step in the direction of full equality. While we’ve made significant progress in the fight for full equality for marginalized groups, women, in particular, continue to face a unique set of challenges that passing the Equality Act would address.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act established protections from sex discrimination in employment but failed to address other critical areas of law. Now, we need the Equality Act in order to update existing law to ensure that federally funded programs, as well as providers of goods and services like restaurants, stores, accountants, pharmacies, and salons, cannot discriminate against women.

Women experience discrimination while accessing federally funded programs and public accommodations across a wide range of contexts. Here are a few of the reasons why women need the Equality Act:

  • It would ensure that breastfeeding women are not harassed or excluded from public spaces.

  • It would prohibit pharmacies from refusing to fill a birth control prescription.

  • It would prevent salons and dealerships from charging women more for the same goods or services that it provides a man.

  • It would ensure that federally funded veteran’s services don’t exclude women or provide them with inferior services.

  • It would prohibit federally funded youth homelessness programs from harassing a pregnant teen.

  • It would protect against discrimination by transportation providers like car-share services, trains, and airlines.

The Equality Act also makes explicit that individuals are protected from discrimination based on having a perceived protected characteristic. This would mean that a woman could not be discriminated against because someone misperceives her ethnicity or religion if she takes her spouse's last name, or mistakenly assumes she is a lesbian, or incorrectly identifies her as pregnant.

Without this explicit protection, employers have sometimes successfully defended against Title VII charges of discrimination because the individual did not actually have the characteristic that the employer assumed they had, even though the characteristic was protected.

Women need the Equality Act. And we all need to do our part to help get this landmark bill passed and signed into law to ensure equality for everyone. If you’re ready to get involved, check out these four things you can do right now to help us pass the Equality Act. And be sure to follow HRC on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to stay up to date on all of our work to pass the Equality Act and achieve equal rights for the entire LGBTQ+ community.